Tuesday, December 02, 2008

The Long Awaited and Overpriced Nikon D3x

What The Heck Is Nikon Thinking? Indeed, what _are_ they trying to do at Nikon Japan? Alienate their core user base? Attract the last handful of medium format film camera holdouts to an overpriced d-slr? Prove that their flagship high-resolution camera can carry the same price-at-introduction as a Canon 1Ds series body? Achieve marketing and production goals that were set two years ago? Mess up their entire product matrix? Piss off thousands and thousands of highly-opinionated,web-connected,vocal users on the web's most important photography community sites? I dunno, but maybe all of those things are what Nikon was trying to do by designing and pricing their D3x d-slr body at $8,000 US dollars. Because they achieved all of those "goals".

Nikon has made a huge marketing blunder with their D3x. Not long ago, Nikon USA's web site had a cryptic,dark picture of a D3-series body with the word "BIG" in the headline, as if they had something "big" they were going to bring to the table. Nikon's failed attempt to build suspense in the weeks prior to the formal announcement of the D3x was a sad,sad commentary. There were rumors Nikon would introduce an MX sized sensor, ostensibly a medium format camera with a higher-resolution sensor than their FX format D3 and D700, which are both 12 megapixel cameras. And now that the world has been informed of Nikon's intention to price their new flagship at a "Big" price of $8,000,there has been a very vocal and disappointed outpouring of complaints all over the world wide web.

A rather funny parody using footage from a movie has come to my attention, The clip is called "Hitler rants about the D3x". It's here on youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tnwf2RShNV0

Thom Hogan lambasted Nikon's product launch problems and the lack of focus surrounding the marketing for the D3x. Hogan's article about the D3x is well worth reading,in a sad sort of way,but not if if you are a Nikon fanboy or apologist,as many are. http://www.bythom.com/nikond3xcomments.htm

Michael Reichmann, head honcho of The Luminous Landscape announced that he thought about the price on Sunday morning and then called his photo supplier and cancelled his longstanding D3x pre-order because he did not perceive the value of an eight thousand dollar d-slr. He already owns a Nikon D3 12 MP full-frame camera and a Sony Alpha A900,which is also a 24.5 MP d-slr,just like the D3x. Uh-oh...Luminous Landscape gets over a million web hits per month. Bad press there is really BAD.

As Reichmann said of the Nikon D3x on Dec. 2,2008
"Yes, I can afford it, but I simply find it not to represent good value. After testing the 24MP Sony A900 (which I purchased for less than the equivalent of US $2,500 here in Toronto last month) the thought of paying US $8,000 for a camera that that has the same resolution, the same frame rates, a similar large and bright viewfinder, etc, just seemed to me to be a bad value proposition. The Canon 5DII at well under $3,000 is another current alternative in a full-frame 20+ MP camera.

With the value represented by the Nikon D700 as compared to the D3, and the Canon 5DII as compared to the 1Ds MKIII, I feel that the days of the mega-pro DSLR are numbered for many photographers. Yes, of course they offer superior AF, weather sealing and maybe a slight edge in image quality, but the price differential is enormous, especially now as the world enters a serious recession, if not worse." end quoted passage from Michael Reichman.

Ouch. That's gotta's sting...one of the web's most influential landscape photography website owners, the guy who said "Nikon's back in the game" just a few months ago when the D3 was hot stuff, is now telling his million monthly readers and 30,000 forum members that the $8,000 D3x is not a good value,and is saying that the uber-cams offer, "maybe a slight advantage"over lower-priced cameras like the EOS 5D Mark II and Sonly Alpha A900. Key daggers are 'maybe' and 'slight'.

So,tonight I went looking for examples of photo output from a $2,500 5D Mark II,which I found compared against an uber-Canon 1Ds Mark III 21-megapixel camera and a very costly Hasselblad body,Hassy 150mm CFi lens,and PhaseOne digital medium format back with 16-bit capture. Here's a post I made on the Nikongear.com forum,of which I am a member.

"Informative comparison photos between two 20+ MP d-slr's and a 25 MP Phase one back can be found here.

See photos from a Hasselblad 555 ELD body fitted with a Phase One P25 digital back and 150mm CFi lens and shot at ISO 50 (native ISO) compared with the EOS 5D Mark II and EOS 1Ds Mark III,each with the Canon 90mm Tilt/Shift lens,both Canons shot at their native ISO of 100. The results might surprise you. Studio flash, three heads. At the bottom of the thread,see the 5D Mark II compared with the 1DS Mark III,both cameras using the Canon 135mm f/2 L lens at f/11 under studio flash.
Bottom line: a $2,500 Canon 21 MP body produces studio flash illuminated images that are very,very,very close to those from a 25 MP Phase One back on Hassy optics,and very,very close to EOS 1DS Mark III photos,with both Canons using the same lenses. Canon cannot maintain the 1Ds III's retail price,which has fallen to $6750,or almost to dealer cost. Nikon's $8k price has infuriated _most_ of the people who bought D1-D2-D3 bodies. Nikon alienating their core customer base to chase after phantom "medium format" customers is foolish,and will backfire.

Canon cameras can use Nikkor lenses--even the G-series lenses. Landscape shooters are having a field day using F-mount lenses on EOS bodies. Nikon has already missed the studio medium format wannabe's,who almost all went to the 1Ds bodies four,three,two,or one year ago. Nikon has ticked off a huge percentage of users like me who have shelled out for D1,D1h,and D2x bodies and who have 20 to 30 Nikon F mount lenses. I got burned on the D2x at $5k...my 5D did/still does better in several ways, for less,using both Canon and Nikkor lenses. I doubt that the D3x will yield much better IQ than the two Canon FF bodies OR the A900. For many uses, yes, the D3x is very costly. Nikon's "BIG" campaign has missed the mark among Nikon shooters in the USA,Canada,UK,and Europe. Oh,and Asia and South America. I'm sure the D3x will be a good camera with the best Nikkor lenses. Thank goodness Nikkors also work on Canon bodies. Here's some 14mm-24mm AF-S Nikkor lens shots done on Canon EOS bodies,using the new G-series to EF Body lens adapter that costs about $179 US. http://www.fredmiranda.com/forum/topic/660637 ---end of my quoted post on Nikongear.com

It remains to be seen if the Nikon D3x can beat the EOS 5D Mark II's image quality by much,or at all. The D3x is reportedly using the same sensel (the light-sensitive area of the sensor) used in the Sony Alpha A900. Both the D3x and A900 have 24.5 megapixel sensors, with the Nikon camera reportedly having a special optical low pass filter designed by Nikon. Nikon talks up its $8k wunderkamera in its 28-page brochure available here http://chsvimg.nikon.com/products/imaging/lineup/digitalcamera/slr/d3x/pdf/d3x_28p.pdf.

A trip to dPreview's Nikon D3-D1/D700 forum shows a LOT of disgruntled Nikon users. So what, some might say. Well, here's an article that notes that user reviews,found on the internet,are very,very influential in buying decisions. Among the article's points are that around 8 percent of users on web forum communities create about 80 percent of the content,and that the majority of readers in web communities are very,very much persuaded by the user reviews they read. On-line user reviews are second only to word of mouth recommendations in influencing product buying decisions.
http://www.marketingvox.com/online-reviews-second-only-to-wom-in-purchase-influence-042186/ Oh crap, Nikon had better pay somebody other than Moose Peterson to talk up the D3x's image making potential. Because Michael Reichman and Thom Hogan have given two very strong negative messages about this uber-camera to the serious shooters of the web community. People talk,Nikon,and you've just pissed off the majority of the people who bought D1-D2-D3 bodies. Bad move.

The D3x is scheduled to be available next month,wherever ultra-costly Nikon cameras are sold. But before you buy, consider that a Sony A900 body and three absolutely top of the line Zeiss lenses will set you back about $7,300. Zeiss 16-35,24-70,and 70-200,all f/2.8,all new,and all capable of using the built-in body stabilizing system of the A900. And also consider the Canon 5D Mark II and some nice L-glass lenses, like four of them,could be yours for the price of one D3x body. And do not worry--the D3x's introductory price is not actually $8,000,but it is $7999.95,so Nikon will give you a five cent discount,just to keep your wife or bank manager from crapping her/his pants upon hearing how much you wanna' spend on a new camera body. Unless you live in Canada,Norway,or Australia,where the camera set you back the equivalent of $10,000 US dollars. Such a deal! But do not fret-the D3x cannot maintain its introductory price. The 1Ds Mark II has fallen to $6,750 from $7999,and the D3x will also follow the same pattern of price erosion as the D3 and 1Ds Mark III. It's inevitable.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

The bottom line is that digital sensors have now peaked, more and more research dollars are being spent for diminishing returns on image quality. There is also diffraction to deal with. You simply can't get much more quality out of a 35mm size sensor. If your an amateur it can make a lot of sense to grab a Medium Format film camera on Ebay and a used film scanner. You can get image quality that bests the full frame DSLRs for a quarter of the price (or less).